A new report suggests a change in diet can relieve attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) symptoms in some children.
ADHD is a developmental disorder characterized by the co-existence of attention problems and hyperactivity with symptoms typically beginning before the age of seven. ADHD is believed to affect about 3 to 5 percent of children globally and is diagnosed in about 2 to 16 percent of school aged children.
Although more research is necessary, some studies show that by changing their diet, it is possible to improve the condition for some ADHD children, said Kim Fleischer Michaelsen, Ph.D., from the Department of Human Nutrition at the University of Copenhagen.
“Several of the studies show, for example, that fatty acids from fatty fish moderate the symptoms. Other studies detect no effect. Elimination diets are also promising. These look at whether there is anything in the diet which the children cannot consume without adverse side effects.
“However, we still lack knowledge about which children with ADHD benefit from dietary changes, how positive the effect is in the long term and what the changes mean for children’s health.”
In the research report, investigators found that not all ADHD children benefit from changes to their diet, and that there are still many unknown factors. This finding is consistent with the premise that multiple factors may contribute to ADHD development.
Tine Houmann, M.D., a consultant at the Centre for Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, said:
“There are different types of ADHD, and the disturbance is probably due to both genetic and environmental factors. We know that children with ADHD react very differently to both medication and dietary changes. We therefore need to study which children benefit from dietary changes, and whether we can identify genetic or environmental factors that can predict this.”
Researchers believe future studies will allow clinicians to reduce the use of medications and/or substitute dietary advice for some children.
“It is promising that many research results indicate that dietary changes can help some ADHD children. However, it is crucial that bigger studies on dietary changes are conducted on children with ADHD to see how effective this is and how long the benefits last,” said Michaelsen.
Researchers stress that parents should always seek professional advice before changing their children’s diet.
Source: University of Copenhagen